A highly anticipated effort to boost state spending on school construction and renovation projects passed with an overwhelming majority in the House of Delegates Friday. The bill would add $2.2 billion dollars to the state’s existing school construction funding over five years.
The initiative is a priority for House Speaker Adrienne Jones, who is the legislation’s primary sponsor, and Senate President Bill Ferguson. Gov. Larry Hogan has also introduced his own similar version of the bill.
But during debate Thursday and Friday, House members from smaller, more rural counties raised concerns that a small number of large jurisdictions are getting the bulk of the money.
“The big six counties here — they have two and a half times the student population, but they’re getting seven and a half times the money,” said Del. Matt Morgan, a Republican from St. Mary’s County.
House Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh, who co-sponsored the bill, said it corrects an existing system that favors those smaller counties.
“The smaller counties and more rural counties every year come in with their projects or every other year or in some cases, every 10 years, you know, and they get 100% of the money that they need to do their school projects,” she said, “while Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County — the larger counties — would be getting like 10% or 15% of their needs met.”
Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Montgomery County are each slated to get more than a fifth of the funding the bill generates.